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THE PATRIOT ($28) is a highly entertaining piece of historic fiction that accurately depicts the hardships faced by the American colonists as the fought the British during the revolutionary war. Mel Gibson stars in THE PATRIOT as Benjamin Martin, a South Carolina farmer, who saw more than his share of conflict in the French and Indian war. Martin wants to spare his family the horrors of war, so he decides to stay out of America’s fight for independence. However, when the fighting tragically erupts on his property, Martin is forced into the war alongside his idealistic son Gabriel (Heath Ledger). Leading a ragtag band of militiamen against overwhelming British forces, Martin does everything in his power to keep General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) and his troops in the south and away from the colonial army. Because of his unorthodox methods, Martin is dubbed The Ghost, and when his tactics prove too success against the British, Cornwallis sends a ruthless officer named Colonel William Tavington (Jason Isaacs) to deal with The Ghost once and for all.

THE PATRIOT is a lush, beautiful and action packed movie that is sometimes gruesome in its depiction of 18th century warfare. Still, the story is quite entertaining, so I am not going to quibble about its historic inaccuracies. Lets face it, THE PATRIOT was designed as pure escapist entertainment and not intended to be a history lesson. Production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli and costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott deserve resounding praise for helping to bring the period to life in meticulous detail. THE PATRIOT also features some amazing digital effects, which enhance the film’s sense of realism. In addition, director Roland Emmerich (noted for such sci-fi epics as STARGATE and INDEPENDENCE DAY) has done an outstanding job of bringing a visceral reality to the film’s spectacular battle sequences. The cast of THE PATRIOT features Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tchéky Karyo, Rene Auberjonois, Lisa Brenner, Donal Logue, Leon Rippy, Adam Baldwin, Jay Arlen Jones, and Joey D. Vieira.

Columbia TriStar Home Video’s DVD release of THE PATRIOT is absolutely superb in every way possible. THE PATRIOT is framed at 2.35:1 and the DVD is enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Columbia TriStar has created a flawless transfer that meticulously reproduces Caleb Deschanel’s beautiful cinematography in exacting detail. Color reproduction on the DVD is exquisite; the warm glowing hues produced by glowing candle light are especially appealing. So are the colors that are produced in bright daylight and the cool blue lighting of darker sequences. Flesh tones maintain a consistently natural appearance in all lighting situations. There are absolutely no signs of chromatic distortion, nor do the intense hues ever bleed beyond their boundaries. Blacks are dead on perfect and image displays amazing level of shadow detail. The only minor flaw in the picture is a tiny bit of film grain that occasionally makes an appearance. However, considering the lighting set ups required to recreate the 18th century, the mild grain is easily overlooked. There are almost no signs of digital compression artifacts on this dual layered DVD, which has been authored to maintain the beauty of every moment of this 165-minute film. In spite of the film’s historic setting,

THE PATRIOT features a powerful Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that truly delivers the goods. This mix is enveloping and involving from the opening logos until the final credits roll. The soundtrack has a subtle and sometimes sublime sense of presence that nicely contrasts to precise and explosive direction effects that are aggressively deployed during the battle sequences. Dialogue is fully intelligible, and the actors’ voices maintain a realistic timbre. The bass channel is solid throughout and it provides the percussive and concussive force required to make every moment come alive. Additionally, the track has marvelous frequency response that reproduces John Williams’ score with a full, rich musical quality. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, along with English and French subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound are utilized to enhance the DVD’ interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD’s nice complement of supplemental features. Topping the list of supplements is a running audio commentary with director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin. Both men provide a lot of interesting details on the film’s production and they actually manage to talk about the movie for nearly three hours, making the track a worthwhile time investment for fans.

There is a Visual Effects Interactive Featurette that allows one to look at how the effects for different sequences were achieved. Utilizing three separate display windows, the interactive featurette allows one to look at different stages of the work simultaneously, while effects supervisor Stuart Robertson describes the finer point of each effect. The Art of War runs approximately ten minutes and shows how the film’s battle scenes were produced. The True Patriots is another ten minute featurette that looks at the real historic figures of the revolutionary war, while placing the film’s fictitious story and characters into perspective. The Conceptual Artwork To Film Comparisons allow one to view the original pre-production artists renderings of the film and then compares them to completed sequences in THE PATRIOT. There are six deleted scenes on the DVD that can be viewed with or without the filmmakers’ commentary, as well as photo galleries, two theatrical trailers and talent files. THE PATRIOT is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering a number of weblinks.

THE PATRIOT is solid motion picture entertainment that can keep a viewer totally engrossed for nearly three hours. Add to that Columbia TriStar’s superb video and audio presentation, plus some worthwhile supplements and one comes up with a must have DVD. THE PATRIOT is a DVD that is absolutely recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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